The native beauty of Bidwell Park serves as the scenic backdrop for Bidwell Park Golf Course, a 6,363-yard layout comprised of two distinct 9-hole experiences. Characterized by parkland-style terrain, the front nine includes two of the round's more difficult tracks: the 520-yard, par-five fifth hole and the 412-yard, par-four sixth hole, both of which demand accurate drives and approach shots down narrow fairways and into greens guarded by sandtraps. The back nine ripples over Northern California foothills, creating shot opportunities where golfers will have to adjust their swings for up- or down-hill targets. Though water only comes into play on two holes, a stream runs throughout the entire course, attracting wildlife and caddies who need a place to wash the grass stains out of their coveralls.
Course at a Glance:
In 1988, the owners of a ramshackle golf course put it up for sale, taking out a small advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle. But where others saw a lost cause, Gordon Morrice saw an opportunity. He quickly bought the course and set to improving it, clearing the rocks and trees littering the fairways, planting new trees, and adding concrete paths to keep wild carts from burrowing into the grass. Over two decades, Morrice and his family transformed Black Oak Golf Course into a facility worthy of a country club, with tiered poa annua greens highlighted by the signature fourth hole—a 131-yard par 3 featuring a dramatic tee shot over water. Along with a regular maintenance staff, at least one member of Morrice's family oversees the course on any given day, retaining a level of personal attention that keeps it from shriveling into a mini-golf course like so many before it.
Course at a Glance:
Copses of serene pines, oaks, and redwoods cluster along no fewer than 36 rye-grass fairways at Lincoln Hills Golf Club. Even after creating its first 18-hole Hills course, designed by professional golfer Billy Casper and famed course architect Greg Nash, the club decided it wanted another. Its ambition created a second par 72 layout—the Orchard course—giving golfers a choice between two courses where large greens nestle amid rolling hills and naturally occurring wetlands.
The older Hills course unfurls over 6,876 yards. Its second hole demands a tee shot over a lake and onto a tight fairway before players even begin to aim at a green guarded by a bunker on the left. The newer Orchard course also makes golfers sweat at the second fairway, its hardest, which earns a par 5 by coming in at 598 yards and offering a plethora of sand bunkers as well as a 75-foot slope from the tee box to the green.
Instead of smashing cell phones to make rudimentary compasses, golfers navigate the course in GPS-equipped golf carts. The club also entices players with an 8-acre driving range, a practice area for putting and chipping, and individual or group lessons with professionals Steven Treadway and Patty Snyder—a former LPGA Tour player.
The Ridge Golf Course and Event Center's 6,734-yard course—designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.—stretches across wide-open, natural expanses, and up and over rippling foothills to reveal breath-taking views. The 18-hole, par 71 course offers challenges for golfers of all levels, daring them to evade the 48 bunkers, water hazards, and oak trees that have been known to hit balls back. Some holes are especially tricky, for instance, on hole 7, an uphill fairway precedes a 26-yard-deep rolling green, prompting golfers to pull their three-wood instead of their driver. But as Greg French—retired director of Golf at The Ridge—said, "It doesn't have to be a difficult course," according to their website. Each hole contains four sets of tees, enabling new players to set up closer, less-difficult shots.
When they're not testing their mettle on the course, players can settle disputes with their empty stomachs at the club’s bar and grill, where cooks grill burgers and sizzle up hot sandwiches.
Course at a Glance: